For the tenth year in a row, the Golden State Warriors will be playing on Christmas Day, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies in a rematch of last year’s second-round series. According to insider Mark Stein, the Warriors and Grizzlies will join the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks as part of the NBA’s annual slate of Christmas games, which will compete for viewers with three different NFL games this holiday.
As we all remember, the Warriors defeated the Grizzlies in six games during the second round of the playoffs, on their way to winning the NBA title. That series was intense, featuring a mid-air assault on Gary Payton by Dillon Brooks, which sent GPII to the hospital and landed Brooks on Santa’s naughty list. Habitual coal recipient Draymond Green got ejected from a game for a flagrant two foul, the Memphis crowd serenaded Andre Iguodala with the traditional Carol of the Boos, and Coach Taylor Jenkins tried to blame Jordan Poole for injuring Ja Morant, a story that was more physically improbable than an obese bearded man fitting himself and a sack of presents down thousands of chimneys in one night. (Yes Virginia, Ja already had a bone bruise.)
Warriors-Grizzlies is a rivalry that was already simmering in the 2020-21 season, when Golden State defeated Memphis on the last day of the season to claim 8th place, then lost to the Grizzlies in overtime in the play-in game. It started boiling over when the Warriors re-signed Iguodala, who became the Grizzlies’ enemy when he never joined the team after a trade in the summer of 2019. Brooks said that Iguodala was missing out on them “building this dynasty,” a dynasty that so far has a 7-10 record in the playoffs.
Dillon Brooks: “They know that we’re going to come every single year. We’re young, and they’re getting old.”
Steph Curry’s response: “He’s said a lot of crazy things. He called himself a dynasty already”
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) May 14, 2022
Also, Klay Thompson took time during his post-championship speech to call out an unnamed Grizzly (young big man Jaren Jackson Junior) for tweeting “Strength in Numbers” after Memphis handled the Warriors – missing Steph Curry, Klay, and Draymond – back in March. According to Klay, Jackson was both a “freakin’ bum” and a “freakin’ clown,” and holy canolli, those are fighting words!
Draymond predicted this matchup when he and Morant went back and forth on Twitter this June.
Today Draymond facetiously invited Ja to his house for dinner after the game, after which Taylor Jenkins will blame Jordan Poole’s homemade cookies for a torn hamstring Morant gets a few weeks later.
How have the Warriors done in their recent Christmas games? It’s been a mixed bag. Last year the team was short-handed, but defeated the phoenix suns on the road thanks to Curry and Otto Porter Jr. In 2020, they lost by 39 points to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucksbut upset the Houston Rockets the year before, despite Houston entering the game at 21-9, while the Dubs were 7-24. It may have been Damion Lee’s finest moment as a Warrior, and Draymond scored 20 points as well.
They’ve alternated wins and losses, getting hammered by the underdog Lakers in 2018, edging the Cavs in 2017, losing to Cleveland on a Kyrie game-winner in 2016, getting blitzed by the Clippers in 2015, avenging a narrow Warriors win against them the year before. Basically, the Warriors have won the games they weren’t supposed to and lost the ones they probably should have won. We can safely say this game means more to Memphis than it does to Golden State, but whether that has any predictive value at all – who knows?
It will be Klay’s first Christmas game since 2018, and he’ll probably open his presents on the boat so he can jump in the Bay to get himself psyched up. If you think about it, Klay has a lot in common with Santa Claus: He’s jolly, he’s bearded, and he likes roasting things on an open fire that come in a sack. Also, he clearly keeps a list of people who’ve said naughty things to him on Twitter, so Jaren Jackson Junior’s social media better be good for goodness sake.